Seth Russell is back to football. After fracturing a bone in his neck in late October, the long, grueling road to recovery started. In the 2016 opener, the Baylor Bears happily welcomed Russell back to the starting lineup. It wasn't an explosive day like his first career start against the Demons in 2014 for the injured Bryce Petty, but it was a productive one. Four touchdowns on 14-20 passing and 163 yards were a good start to the season for Russell. The Bears deep passing game wasn't clicking on all cylinders as Russell missed on a few long ones. The most glaring wasn't his fault, as much as Chris Platt not getting his foot down inbounds, rather kicking the pylon on the way to the endzone.
So, let's take a look at the plays Russell missed and the ones that he made.
The Bears first drive saw them start slowly in the passing game and do most of their action on the ground. The first play saw Russell hit K.D. Cannon for a quick hitting 6-yard gain. Russell lined up from under center, quickly spun to Cannon and threw a quick screen. After a big run by Shock Linwood, the Bears found themselves inside the Redzone. On first down, Russell had a run/pass option and chose to throw to Quan Jones outside for a 5 yard gain. On second down, Russell threw it away as the Bears tried to get the ball to Chris Platt up the hash.
Result of Drive - Touchdown (Russell: 2-3, 11 yards)
On the second drive, the Bears once again started a drive with a quick-hitter to K.D. Cannon for 8 yards. That would be the only pass attempt of this drive, but Russell did attempt a run from inside the 5-yard line that was stopped for no gain. At second and goal from the 2-yard, Russell kept the ball on the zone-read. It was the correct read, but the Demons played it perfectly with a linebacker filling the gap and standing Russell up. Three Demons came on top of Russell and threw him down, sending Baylor fans into a frenzy.
Result of Drive - Field Goal (Russell: 1-1, 8 yards, Rush for 0 yards)
After another 3-and-out for the Demons, the Bears once again had the ball inside of NSU territory. For the third drive in a row, the Bears started a drive with a quick hitting pass, this one going to Chris Platt for 12 yards. Platt was lined up as the nearest receiver in a trips formation and ran a simple curl. After that, the Bears would run the ball down to the NSU 6-yard line.
On first and goal, the Bears would line up with three receivers to the short side, and KD Cannon alone on the far side. Cannon would run a simple slant route, with Russell delivering a perfect ball, but Cannon would drop it. The Bears would try it again on 3rd down, with Cannon once again alone at the bottom of the field. Another good throw by Russell, but the defensive back played physical at the line of scrimmage and disrupted the play, breaking it up. With it fourth down now, the Bears lined up in a heavy set with tight end in the backfield and Cannon once again alone on the far side of the field. With Williams next to him, Russell faked the handoff. The tight end went across the formation, seemingly to block for a Russell keeper. However, Sam Tecklenburg ran past the defender, setting up a wide open pass fake and an easy catch and throw for the touchdown.
Result of Drive - Touchdown (Russell: 2-3, 16 yards, 1 touchdown)
The Bears received the ball near midfield for their 4th drive, and once again started the drive with a quick pass to the outside. Cannon ran an 8-yard curl with off coverage. He made his man miss and picked up 15 yards. The second play saw Russell go deep to Chris Platt who ran a go-route from the slot. It was a perfectly delivered ball, but Platt ran out of room. It was inches away from being a touchdown pass, but the play was ruled incomplete. On 2nd down, the Bears once again had a quite hitter to Cannon with the coverage being soft to gain 11 yards. The next passing play would be 2nd and 3 from the 6-yard line after some big runs.
The Bears would again come out with a single receiver to the far side of the field, a tight end in the backfield and 2 receivers to the short side. This was the worst pass of the game for Russell, as the coverage saw the slant coming by Pooh Stricklin. Russell double pumped the ball as the DB was in perfect coverage. Russell threw a fastball, but the play was simply not there. He should have moved on to another receiver in his progression. Third down saw the slant route to the other side of the field to K.D. Cannon, who ran a much better route, getting inside the corner as a perfect threw found him easily.
Result of Drive - Touchdown (3-5, 33 yards, 1 touchdown)
With a Tony Nicholson 84-yard punt return touchdown called back due to penalty, the Bears started at their own 29. A big run by JaMycal Hasty gor the Bears to midfield. Russell then threw a quick curl to Quan Jones who made his man miss and gain 18 yards. Another Hasty run was followed by a Chris Platt curl route for 7 yards. The drive would stall there and end in a made field goal.
Result of Drive - Field Goal (2-2, 25 yards)
The Bears defense would stiffen again, and their special teams would give them a goal-to-go situation. After pinning the Demons back at the 11 yard line on the kick return, the defense would get two tackles for loss. After a false start, NSU would be punting from their 7-yard line. Tony Nicholson's 44-yard return would give the Bears the ball at the 5-yard line. On first down, Seth Russell would miss Pooh Stricklin on a corner fade route on a bad throw. Russell would throw a wobbler that would fall well short of the desired target. Third down, Russell would run a perfect run/pass zone-read. Faking the ball to Terence Williams, tight end Jordan Feuerbacher cross the formation and appeared to be the lead blocker for Russell, the read was a pass as Jordan had an easy catch for a touchdown.
Result of Drive - Touchdown (1-2, 5 yards, 1 touchdown)
In Russell's final drive, he started quickly and had his best pass of the game. The first pass saw Russell find Stricklin with an under-thrown ball on a curl route for 11 yards. After a Shock Linwood run, the Bears would hit their biggest pass play of the game. With two recievers on the wide side of the field, the Bears would run their traditional zone-read look. The Demons were in man-defense, with a safety on Lynx Hawthorne. Russell read the play perfectly, as Hawthorne got some separation and Russell threw a perfect ball from the Baylor 39-yard line to the NSU 17 yard line, finding his senior receiver in perfect stride for a huge 45 yard gain.
The next play would see Russell pay Pooh Stricklin back for the bad fade pass on the previous drive, hitting him with a perfectly timed slant route for a 10-yard touchdown.
Result of Drive - Touchdown (3-3, 66 yards, 1 touchdown)
Seth Russell took what the defense gave him all night. He only forced one ball, and that was the lone pass that was tipped from him. He missed a bit on the long ball to Platt forcing him too far to the sidelines for the catch, but that might have been more on Platt. He missed badly on a fade route, but made up for it by hitting 2 slant routes for touchdowns. He delivered a perfect ball to Lynx Hawthorne to setup another touchdown and showed good power on his throws throughout. This was a clinic in terms of making the right read, on almost every throw. Baylor got points on all 7 drives, and did what they needed to do, gaining 41 of a possible 49 points during Seth Russell's game action. He only had one bad decision all night (the double pumped slant throw to Stricklin) and then had two bad throws (incomplete fade route to Stricklin, threw behind Quan Jones on a completion).
5 touchdowns, 2 field goals
14 completions, 2 dropped balls, 1 throw away, 3 incompletions
163 yards and 4 touchdownsnull